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Healthcare for those in need is threatened

By Steve Wall • Guest Columnist | Why do we even need any medical insurance programs or Social Security?

Well, because about 500 elderly folks in Haywood County are in nursing homes with their fees paid by Medicaid. And over 4,500 of our community’s children are enrolled in Medicaid. Virtually anyone over 65 gets their medical bills paid primarily paid by Medicare. And most people over 65 depend on Social Security to escape the poverty that threatened their  aging family members before 1936 and President Roosevelt. 

Over 4,000 Haywood County residents get medical care through the Affordable Care Act, and that law also protects many more from losing their insurance because of pre-existing conditions — but that story is for another time.

Recently, while he was far away and out of the public eye in Davos, Switzerland, President Trump backed off his 2016 election campaign promise to “Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. Have to …” But when his CNBC interviewer asked if these “entitlements” (they are really earned benefits most people pay for their entire working life) will be “on your plate,” Trump responded  “at some point they will be”… “towards the end of next year.” Oh, “towards the end of next year.” How convenient — after the 2020 election. Another promise broken — or probably just forgotten like “4-5 percent” economic growth, Mexico paying for the wall, North Korea making a “great deal” to end its nuclear weapons program, etc., etc.

So Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (not even mentioning the Affordable Care act) will be targets for massive cuts if Trump is re-elected. How do we know this? Well, fortunately his 2019 budget was stopped in its tracks — it called for $850 billion in cuts to Medicare over 10 years and a  $1.5 trillion cut in Medicaid. And if  people like Tom Tillis and Mike Clampitt and Michelle Presnell are in office they will provide all the support Trump needs — if he is re-elected — at the federal and state levels to complete his attack on whatever “safety net” is left for millions of Americans. 

But why make this confession at Davos, the biggest assembly of world bankers, corporate leaders and oligarchs eager to get a bigger piece of the world economic pie. Well, with Davos being far away and out of sight of most Americans — unless you were watching the PBS Evening News or reading the Wall Street Journal — you may have missed seeing this disturbing bit of news. Very smart move Donald.

But many world leaders are concerned about the massive deficit that Trump has racked up in three short years. The World Bank warns countries not to let their budget deficit run more that 77 percent of a country’s total Gross Domestic Product. That is a tipping point for long-term insolvency, as  the interest at that level of debt will begin to choke off funds for all other social needs. The U.S. debt under Donald Trump has ballooned to over 104 percent of GDP. At this rate the interest alone will be over $700 billion a year by 2026.

Why is this happening? Simply because the massive tax cut that Trump, Tillis, McConnell and company rammed through before the 2018 election has shrunk the money coming in to the U.S. treasury by billions of dollars. Instead of the 4-5 percent economic growth Trump boastfully predicted would generate “beautiful surpluses,” we are hovering around 2 percent growth. But no worries: if you have an income over $1 million a year, you will pay about $69,000 less in federal income tax! And if you are one of the 0.01 percent you will take home an average $1,066,460 more than before the tax cut. The average American income is about $51,000. And by the way, the corporate tax breaks were made permanent. Tax breaks for working families disappear in 2025!

So what will happen to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The bottom line is — they don’t care. Would-be N.C. State Rep. Mike Clampitt recently characterized Democrats as “communists, socialists,” but students of American history know that those slanders were hurled at President Roosevelt when he pushed for Social Security, and thank God he did! Then Lyndon Johnson was accused of the same when  he pushed for Medicare and Medicaid in 1966, and thank God he did. 

I hope and believe most people look past the pompous circus of the Trump rallies and the vicious and slanderous name calling carried out by him and his noisiest followers to see the real threat that lies in this dark corner of the American political scene.

(Steve Wall is a retired pediatrician who spent his career working with children in Western North Carolina.

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